Malting Barley Conference 2015

Close to 100 farmers attended the company’s 10th Annual Malting Barley Conference, held at Norton Park Hotel, Nr Winchester, jointly sponsored by Syngenta and Warminster Maltings Ltd.

Proceedings began with 3 papers from Syngenta, first of all highlighting the prodigious cost ($200 – 250 million) of bringing a new active ingredient to the pesticide market. Somewhat less costly was Syngenta’s new Spring malting barley variety ‘Laureate’. Not surprisingly this barley ticks all the boxes for both farmers and the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD), being a non-GN variety set to achieve pan European interest.

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Jack Watts from the AHDB followed with an overview of the global barley market, pointing out both the fragility of global barley stocks and the potential growth in demand for barley worldwide. With wheat and maize stocks responsible for dragging all grain prices onto the floor, all it needed was an extreme weather event somewhere in the wheat/maize belts for barley prices to take on a very different meaning. Jack also expressed his enthusiasm for establishing UK malting barley as a global product of choice for brewers all around the world. Afterall we are talking about barley, grown in a maritime climate, and there are not many of them, by an industry with a great tradition in brewing.

Our own malting barley director, Jonathan Arnold, spoke first after lunch, reviewing the landscape that is the UK malting barley market. Its overhanging stocks of good quality barley, and the interference from the strengthening £sterling versus the euro was all impacting on the UK ex farm price.Jonathan warned farmers against any enthusiasm for the new barley variety Irina, it was not shared by the brewing or the distilling industry. On a different tack, Jonathan wanted to draw every farmers attention to the serious shortcomings of the modern moisture meters widely used on farms. Most so called calibrated instruments were consistently registering 1% lower than the industry standard Infratec machine, resulting in a proliferation of claims, or worse, rejections, of barleys delivering to the east of England maltings. The manufacturers of these instruments were not interested in correcting this fault, so it was incumbent on farmers recalibrating them themselves by visiting a laboratory with an Infratec.

Bob King of the Crisp Malting Group spoke on behalf of the Maltsters Association of Great Britain, and Piers Corbyn of WeatherAction rounded off the presentations by explaining his theory that global warming was a political myth. Weather was far more predictable than our daily broadcast weather forecasts would lead us to believe, and he quoted numerous examples of when his forecasts contradicted mainstream thinking, but went on to deliver exactly as he had predicted.

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Last, but not least, was the announcement of this year’s winner of the Robin Appel Spring Malting Barley Challenge – Philip Pryor of F G Pryor & Son Ltd, TruroPhilip’s prize includes 500 bottles of beer brewed from his winning sample of Propino barley, Syngenta’s current flagship malting barley variety.